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Full text of "A plea for the old, against the new, in education: a address delivered at the close of the annual examination of the Presbyterian high schools, at Greenwood, Abbeville district, S. C., August 2nd, 1850"

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No. 101, East-Bay. 


W sj"'"* 




Greenwood, Aug. 2d, 1850. 
Rev. a. a. Porter, 
Dear Sir : 

The Trustees of the Presbyterian High School, at this place, through 
the undersigned, their Committee, would thus tender you the thanks of that body 
for the very able, and highly practical Address, delivered at the close of their 
examination to-day, and respectfully request a copy for publication. 
Your obedient servants, 



Greemvood, Aug. Zd, 1850. 
Gentlemen : — 

My Address having been delivered at the request of the Board of Trus- 
tees, whom you represent, I consider it as their property and at their disposal. 
As soon, therefore, as I can prepare it for the press, I will place a copy of it at 
your command. 

Very respectfully. 

Your obedient servant, 

Gen. James Gillam, Rev. Jno. McLees, 

Dr. Jno. Logan, James Creswell, Esq. — Committee. 

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I AM THE SON OF A SCHOOLMASTER. I havc been one myself. 
Brought up in the school-room, I was early apprenticed to 
that honorable profession and initiated in its art and mys- 
tery. When I was older and became a teacher on my own 
responsibility, I made the business of my calling a matter 
of most careful thought, reading and study. Ever since, 
it has been to me a subject of the deepest interest. I have 
continued to read and to think concerning it ; have studied 
theories and modes of teaching, and have observed and com- 
pared plans and results. And with opportunities for obser- 
vation considerably extensive, if not long continued, I think 
I have been able to learn a good deal about it on the sure 
grounds of fact and experience. 

I make these egotistical remarks, in order to justify the 
freedom and confidence with which I intend to speak of edu- 
cation. I know well, for I have felt that honorable profes- 
sional sensitiveness with which teachers justly receive the 
impertinent and presumptuous lectures on this subject, so 
often volunteered by those who know nothing about it ; and 
I have learned to feel too much indignant contempt for the 
conduct of men, who, of one profession, assume to expound 
the duties of another which they never studied, and in which 
they have had no experience, to be guilty of the folly and 
arrogance of imitating it. I trust, theu, I shall be permitted 
to speak of the schoolmaster's calling, as myself one of the 
fraternity ; with as much indulgence from these teachers pre- 
sent, as they would accord to one another ; while, at the same 
time, I may claim to speak as a disinterested witness, for I 
am no longer a teacher. And I desire to descend from the 
dignity and stiffness of a formal address, and to speak with 
that plainness and point which men in earnest always em- 

ploy about a practical subject. There is rhetorical flummery 
enough current amongst us, to excuse me from attempting to 
produce any more. 

The world is full of excellent theories and wise proverbs, 
on all subjects. On none do they more abound than on that 
of education. And were we to believe all we hear, we 
should suppose there are more ways to educate children 
properly, and more persons able to do it, than there are 
children to be educated. The wisest and most confident 
philosophers, on this subject, are not to be found among 
teachers themselves ; for all who have never taught a school, 
usually know how it should be taught, better than the expe- 
rienced ; just as a bachelor's children are always better man- 
aged than any others. 

And the truth is, there is a great deal of imposture and 
empiricism among the professors of the art of teaching 
themselves. This is not the fault, however, of that honor- 
able profession. The reason why there are quacks in any 
business, is because the people encourage quackery. The 
world patronises imposture and experiment ; else there would 
be none. It is just as true in teaching as in any thing else, 
that the supply will be according to the demand. And if 
novelties and high-sounding pretensions are popular and pay 
well, men will be found ready and able to present them at a 
moment's warning. 

I have no new theory, on the subject of education, to offer. 
I have made no grand invention or discovery, unless it be the 
discovery that our fathers understood the subject about as 
well as we do ; and that the pretended improvements of 
the day, in so far as they aftect principles and systems, 
and not mere details, are a vanity and a lie. I have no tole- 
ration for radical innovators in the delicate business of train- 
ing immortal minds. The physician who tries experiments 
with the lives and health of his patients, is justly and un- 
sparingly condemned. Far less indulgence should be given 
him who plays charlatanical pranks with the souls and mental 
well-being of his pupils. The civilized world, after three 
thousand years experience in the art of education, can be 
taught little by the upstarts of to-day. And the noisy 

heralds of new methods have generally an object, — either to 
conceal essential defects in themselves, or to practice on the 
credulity of a confiding public. Some years ago, an impu- 
dent adventurer made a descent on the quiet people of a 
neighboring district, and established among them an acade- 
my, on some neM^ plan, with a pompous name and much 
pretension. He professed to teach six things in the time 
usually devoted to one, and for a short season largely enjoyed 
the favor and patronage of the community. But after having 
gulled and swindled the people, taught their children nothing 
and made them pay well for it, he suddenly disappeared be- 
tween the close of one day and the dawn of another. 

Education is a necessity in a civilized society ; and the dif- 
ferent degress of it, possessed by any community, or indivi- 
duals, mark and determine their grade in civilization, Man, 
untaught and untrained, is a savage. The more complete 
his education, the more comprehensive in extent, and the 
more perfect in detail, the nearer does he come to the model of 
that ideal maji, whom humanity dreams of and struggles 
after. The end of education is to form man ; to fit him for 
'his duties ; to prepare him for his high privileges and des- 
tiny ; to make him a more perfect and a mor^appy being. 
Next to the salvation of the soul, its education is its most im- 
portant and essential concern. After the profession which 
regards the eternal destiny of man, that of the teacher is the 
noblest and most momentous. Others have to do with the 
temporary and accidental interests of man ; the business of 
that is with his immortal soul. Others are concerned with 
his circumstances; that deals with the man himself, and 
makes or mars him. The victorious warrior wins a hundred 
battles, and triumphs over nations prostrate at his feet. The 
Statesman rules empires and guides the destiny of the world. 
But the teacher fashioned them both ; and taught the general 
to conquer, and the ruler to govern. 

There prevails a wide and fundamental misconception of ' 
the nature and design of right education. By many it is 
confounded with the mere acquisition of knowledge. They 
suppose the object of the teacher to be just to impart infor- 
mation to his pupils. And he M'ho can, in a given time. 

cram into them the greatest quantity of the mere forms and 
facts to be found in books, is counted the most successful 
teacher. This is a vital mistake. If man were all memory 
it might do. But as we are constituted, it is just as if you 
were to take a child and make one member of his body grow 
and enlarge, while the others are left to dwindle and dry up. 
It is not the first and main design of education to communi- 
cate knowledge. That is only incidental and accessary. Its 
object is to perfect the immortal mind itself; to form and 
fashion the soul ; to develope and discipline its powers ; to 
draw out and rectify and strengthen its faculties, and to 
teach how to use them. Its design is to teach the pupil how 
to think, to reason, to remember, to argue, to understand ; to 
refute error, to discover truth, to perceive right, and to choose 
goodness. It aims not to teach knowledge, but how to ac- 
quire knowledge, and to use it with advantage after it is 
acquired. To educate a child properly, is to develope and 
train his judgment, reason, memory, taste, conscience and 
heart. It is to endue him with a sound, stcong, clear, up- 
right and generous mind. To conduct him through a round 
of books, and succeed in getting him to repeat perfectly 
their contents, may make a pert, loquacious parrot of him ; 
but it will never produce that thinking, enlightened, clear- 
headed, large-hearted being, strong and ready for every duty 
of a man, which a rightly educated person ought to be, and 
always is. 

A right understanding of the nature and design of educa- 
tion, shows that every parent ought to educate his children 
as perfectly as possible. The people have a well-founded 
contempt for what they call hooli-leai^ning. There are more 
contemptible things in the world, but not many of them. A 
head stuffed with all the books of the world, would not be 
worth one mind taught to think and reason, and judge^nd 
distinguish, in the school of experience, without reading a 
letter of the printed page. But let the people once under- 
stand the real nature and object of a right education, and 
they will admit its value and obligation. They will seek it 
for their children, at cost and sacrifice. They will feel 
bound in conscience and affection, to prepare those they have 

brought into the world to perform their part in it as well as 
possible, and to neglect no means to make them as good and 
as perfect as the)^ can be made. Nothing, indeed, can be 
plainer than that a parent is solemnly bound to give his 
child the very best education that can be obtained. Many 
suppose a thorough education to be desirable only for those 
who are intended for the learned professions. If a parent 
mean his son to be a lawyer, a divine or a physician, — why, 
then it is supposed to be necessary to give him what is 
called a complete education. But if he intend him to follow 
some other calling, that is considered altogether superfluous ; 
and a slight acquaintance with those ancient and respectable 
sciences, reading, writing and arithmetic, and, perhaps, a 
smattering of geography and grammar, are thought quite 
sufficient. But how plainly wrong is an opinion like this ! 
In the first place, it is not right to determine a child's occu- 
pation for life, before the age when young men usually gra- 
duate in college. What parent has a right to doom his child 
to a more ignoble life, when he has capacities for another ? 
What parent has a right to deny his child, at least, the oppor- 
tunity of distinction in the liberal professions 1 It is unjust 
to the child, unwise and impracticable to decide so soon what 
is to be his vocation in the world. Who can tell what 
changes may happen before the decision can be carried into 
execution? or how circumstances may hereafter vary, or 
make the parent wish he could vary, his plans and purposes 
for his children 1 It requires the actual experiment and trial 
of a good education to prove what a child is competent for. 
Oftentimes, the one designated by parental partiality for a 
learned profession, is found to be the dunce of the whole 
flock ; while others are consigned to manual or mercantile 
toil, who might have led in senates, or shed lustre on the 
m5''steries of science. 

And a right education qualifies its possessor for the better 
and more successful pursuit of any calling in life. What- 
ever work or business requires thought, judgment, invention, 
foresight and sagacity, is managed better by one who has 
had his mental powers developed and cultivated by the dis- 
cipline of a thorough education. Those who denounce the 


study df the ancient languages, who ridicule logic, and think 
the higher mathematics no better than the black art, do not 
know or consider, that though we do not make bargains in 
Latin, or talk Greek in the market, or manage plantations by 
syllogisms, or compute interest, premiums and dividends by 
conic-sections — yet the man whose mental powers have been 
enlarged and drilled and sharpened by such studies, is there- 
by made a wiser and more skilful man of business. It is 
true, men succeed in all departments of life, without a 
thorough education ; but they would have succeeded all the 
better and the more easily, if they had enjoyed that advan- 
tage — not mere hook-learning, but that right education which 
trains and perfects the faculties of the mind. {Such a man, 
after a little experience, will guide the plough, and if he 
must, black his boots, and build his log cabin, more skilfully 
than others. Educate a child as he ought to be educated, 
and though he may never have actual use for any of the 
book-knowledge you have taught him, or though he forgets 
it, every syllable, he will still be all the better for the labor 
bestowed upon him. It is not entirely lost. Wholesome 
nourishment and exercise for the mind, are like the same for 
the body. They are taken up, and enter into the constitu- 
tion, and impart to it health and strength and capacity for 
the exertions it may be called on to make, or the trials it may 
be doomed to suffer. And mere native power and strength 
are not sufficient. They need to be trained and cultivated ; 
to combine with them skill and art. " What is the awkward 
gait of the unpracticed to the fairy steps of the elastic 
dancer, or the arrowy flight of the racer ? What the cleaver- 
like blows of a raw recruit to the lightning point of the 
swordsman ? Trained skill in weakness shall easily foil the 
giant efforts of rude strength. A child, by the aid of his 
hands, can in many things excel an ox ; and as hands are to 
the body, so is the art of thinking to the soul."* 

One of the delusions of the day, is the demand for a more 
practical system of education. Many cry out for something 

* Teaching a Science, and the Teacher an Artist — by the Rev. R. B. Hall — a 
captivating book to a teacher of the old school, which has tempted me several 
times to borrow its strong words and happy illustrations. 


which, in their phrase, " is of some use.'' Utility is the 
standard of value ; and the test of utility, is the capacity 
of being obviously and immediately applied to the making 
of money. A selfish, and mercenary, and covetous end, de- 
termines the kind and degree of education. Arithmetic and 
book-keeping are enough for some ; because they must keep 
accounts, and cast up sales, and calculate interest. Others 
may learn chemistry, as they are designed for druggists. The 
boy may learn surveying, that he may ascertain precisely 
the boundaries of his estate, or lay out and measure his fields. 
Here and there, some wish^reek and Latin, just enough to 
understand the terms and technicalities of law or medicine. 
Some parents object to declamation and composition, because 
their child is not intended for public life. And as to the ed- 
ucation of girls, I fear it is regarded by most as a mere mat- 
ter of ornament and fashion — like the gewgaws and baubles 
which adorn their person — and as having no further uses and 
relations, except perhaps to the cookery book and the Bible. 
Hence, no sooner are they released from school and trans- 
ferred to the drawing room, than their education ceases, and 
study is at an end. The mind is then devoted to the erudi- 
tion of the centre table, and cheap literature, the sentimental 
annual, and Lady's Book, the bombastic romance and fus- 
tian poem. Other parents regard the education of their chil- 
dren as a process which must be passed through, without 
ever caring to think of its nature or object. They expect 
them to get through their schooling, pretty much as they 
wish them well over the measles or whooping-cough. The 
parent supposes his children have to be educated, and the 
great point is to have the operation over. But the prime 
test with most is the " cui bono ?" What per cent, will it 
yield on the investment ? And the great argument against 
an old fashioned, thorough, complete education is, " we see 
no use in it !" The multitude say of it, as the fat knight said 
of honor — " can honor set a leg ? No ! Then I'll none of 
it !" " Man not only begets a son in his own likeness, but 
contrives to make him keep it ; and when the boy grows up, 
he is no greater or better than his father." 

Men ask us vv hat is the use of abstractions and specula- 


tions 1 Why waste time in studies which are never reduced 
to practice ? But the practical cannot exist without the ab- 
stract. When the light of day lingers soft and sweet, after 
the sun itself has sunk beneath the horizon, it would be folly 
to say, " why, light is the thing, what is the use of a sun ?" 
But it would be no more absurd than to say, " practice is the 
thing, what is the use of abstraction ?" All right practice 
is only a true theory acted out. The concrete is only the ab- 
stract realized. A hand strong to labor, a heart stout, and 
full of energy and courage, and a will to do and to suffer all 
worthy of a man, are useful and. practical things in a world 
like this. But what can they avail without art and skill, 
without an eye and a mind clear, keen and sagacious 1 But 
the utilitarian spirit of the age, invading the domain of the 
teacher — as it counts nothing too sacred for its meddling — 
has found men mean and mercenary enough to respond to 
its demands. To suit " the impatience and impertinence of 
a money-loving and labor-saving age," teachers, unworthy 
of their name, have turned quacks ; and claiming to have 
extracted and condensed the essence of physics, metaphysics, 
morals, literature and all learning, profess so to administer 
their concentrated compounds of knowledge, that the merest 
child shall in an incredibly short time, know every thing 
worth knowing, better than it was ever known before. Hap- 
pily, in this blessed southern land of ours, we have been 
comparatively free from this absurd utilitarianism. Book- 
sellers and peripatetic pedagogues from another quarter, have 
indeed tried to introduce it among us ; but we have been 
slov^^ to adopt the pretended improvement. Still there is too 
much of the same spirit every where, and we cannot too ear- 
nestl}^ insist upon its folly and dafiger, and endeavor to ex- 
plain the true method and design of education. The art of 
thinking, the possession of a mind trained and taught to the 
best use of all its powers, is a gift infinitely above the arts 
and inventions of money getting. It is not for the poor nor 
the rich ; not for the mechanic nor the lawyer ; not for the 
farmer feor the physician ; not for the clergyman ijor the lay- 
man — it is for all. It may, in some degree, be taught to 
all, and it ought to be. Men are not made only to plant 


cotton, manure land, measure goods, add figures and make 
bargains. Nor are women intended solely to study dressing, 
follow fashions, ply the needle, make butter, and keep the 
house. And when weary of all this, it was not meant that 
they should betake themselves to idleness, frivolity or scan- 
dal. It was never intended that immortal beings should fol- 
low these things in an unbroken round, year after year, to 
the end of life, forever occupied with what they shall eat, 
and drink, and wear, and gain, and lose. Was the god-like 
spirit made for this ? It is a grand mistake to assume that a 
man's occupation of a worldly nature, is the whole concern 
of his life, or employs all his time, or includes all his duties 
and all his pleasures. Miserable would be his condition if it 
were so. But it is not. He must do more in such a world 
as this, than fulfil such base ends. Whether a lawyer, a 
farmer, a physician, or a mechanic, he is moreover a man, 
with the high duties and privileges of a man, which he ought 
to be able to fulfil and enjoy. The merchant or lawyer is 
secondary and incidental. The man is first and essential. 
His character as a man takes precedence of his character in 
any other capacity. He is besides, a social being, connected 
with those around him by a thousand ties, Awd by the best 
and tenderest instincts of his nature. He cannot steel his 
heart against affection, nor shut his eyes to distress, nor close 
his ear to its cry, nor withhold his hand from its relief. He 
cannot refuse love and duty to his friends, nor aid to the ig- 
norant, nor help to the destitute. He is a son, a brother, a 
husband, a father — relations which call out and reward his 
affections, and also exercise his virtues and talents. He is a 
citizen of a free republic, and that imposes other claims and 
responsibilities besides those of his business. He is also a 
creature subject to infirmities ; calamity may overtake him ; 
death will come upon him ; he is exposed to temptation ; he 
has evil passions to be overcome ; a conscience to be enligh- 
tened ; a heart to be purified and enlarged ; and a soul to be 
saved. Contrast all these relations and responsibilities, which 
belong to every individual, with the single and solitary mat- 
ter of his worldly business, and how do they cover those who 
clamor for a practical and utilitarian education with shame 


and contempt ! Right education must prepare man for all 
these. Its design is to fit him for life, in all its multiplied 
and complex relations — to form a character, and develope a 
capacity for all its duties and privileges — to finish and per- 
fect the social, civilized, christian man and send him forth to 
live, not for self and for gain, but as a benefit and blessing 
to the world, 
/" The education of which I speak, is in the highest and best 
sense practical and utilitarian. It has a practical value, 
though it may not teach how to make two pounds of cotton 
grow in place of one, to double profits in trade, to make a 
pudding, or to darn a stocking. Is there no use in a mind 
taught to reason, to invent, to understand clearly and correct- 
ly — to trace the connection of causes and effects, to discrim- 
inate truth from falsehood, lo detect specious sophistries and 
unfounded pretensions, to refute and confound an error, and 
to sustain the cause of truth and justice 1 Is there no prac- 
tical advantage in an enlightened understanding, a cultivated 
taste, an enlarged and elevated soul, and a generous heart? 
Is there no utility in that which enables a man with honora- 
ble pride, to say, "my mind my kingdom is," niul stores it 
with the material of all pure, sweet, holy and exalted enjoy- 
ments, and endues it ^vith a power gold could never buy — 
the pow€^' to find within itself a happiness altogether un- 
speakable and full of wonder? 

The education which I advocate requires a thorough and 
severe process. It demands time and pains. The spirit of 
the age calls for ease and speed. Now, that the world rolls 
in majesty over levelled mountains, and annihilates time and 
space, it has grown restless with every thing which requires 
patience and labor. Old methods of doing things are too 
slow and toilsome. Children must bound with one leap, out 
of the cradle into the school ; at another, into College, and 
then they are full grown men all at once. And the old sys- 
tem of education, which took so much time, and study so 
severe, and discipline so rigid, and after all, imparted so little 
useful knowledge — has been discarded by many wise men of 
our day. To supply its place, a wonderful variety of new 
plans and systems have been invented and offered to the 


world — the analytical, the synthetical, the inductive, the pro- 
ductive, the musical, the American, the North American — ^the 
catalogue is endless. They profess to have straightened and 
smoothed the way of the scholar, removed all difficulties, 
real and imaginary, and made education so easy that it is 
actual fun and frolic, if you believe the inventors. The 
royal road to learning, so long considered apocryphal, has 
been at last discovered, and pupils are carried along it in 
coaches of luxurious ease and happy indolence. The severe 
system of the old school, rod-enforced-, self-exerting, spirit- 
trying, patience-provoking, toil-producing, time-taking, was 
another thing altogether. It provoked the student, and \vea- 
ried, and often disgusted him — but it trained him to think, to 
reason to remember — it taught him patience, and perseve- 
rance, and endurance, and self-reliance, and diligence, and 
activity. If it did not produce literary fops, and infant pro- 
digies, it did men and women, strong in soul to battle with the 
world — to grapple with heresy in religion, or in politics- — to 
encounter trial' and endure affliction — to master the secrets 
of nature, and to produce monuments of learning and genius, 
eternal as the mountains. Its very difficulties helped to se- 
cure a main end of education. They compelled to self-exer- 
tion and mental toil. If they plagued the mind, they prac- 
tised it, and by rigid and severe discipline, taught it how to 
meet impediments and overcome them. The new and easy 
methods result in mental dissipation, indolence and imbecility. 
They give no vigor to the intellect, and less of strength to the 
character. A child fed on sweetmeats, cannot relish and 
digest plain and wholesome fare. One carried always in the 
nurse's arms, will have no use of its legs. So boys trained in 
the new plans, cannot but shrink from difficult studies, how- 
ever important and necessary, and cannot relish truth unless 
it be made entertaining and exciting. Many a lazy boy and 
mistaken parent prefer a teacher, who tells and explains 
every thing, and carries the child gently and lovingly in his 
bosom, over all rugged and difficult places. They ought for 
that very reason, to reject the teacher. The boy thus nursed 
and indulged, will be a mental baby forever. But every pos- 
sible effort and contrivance are used to make the process of 


education easy and fascinating. The things to be learnt are 
diluted and disguised, that the child may learn them without 
knowing it. The misfortune is that he never does know it. 
Morals are taught in fictitious story ; religion in romances ; 
philosophy in funny dialogues, and history, geography and 
science, in games and plays. The medicine of the mind is 
given in sugar-coated pills ; and there seems to be something 
in the sugar to nullify its influence altogether. It may be 
well enough to amuse in education as a pastime, and much 
may be done to make it pleasant without lessening its toil 
and vigor. But let amusement be made the means of disci- 
pline — let it become the system and plan of education, and it 
becomes an absurdity unutterable. You might, as well think 
of turning the labor of the cotton field into a spprt, continued 
daily from year to year. Children, like all moral and respon- 
sible beings, must be taught to find their pleasures and en- 
joyment in duty and obedience. They must earn the good of 
learning, as every other good is earned in this world — by the 
labor and sweat of the brow. Any system of education 
which obviates that inexorable necessity, in so far, violates 
the law of our nature. It weakens the mind, and unfits it for 
the stern and constant struggles of life. 

There is another leading principle of modern radicalism, 
false and fanatical, that deserves to be noticed ; the princi- 
ple, viz : that children are to be taught the reasons and 
ground of every thing they learn, and ought not to be re- 
quired to learn that which they cannot understand. This is 
one of the new lights of our times by which the rising gene- 
ration are to be made wiser than their fathers, and children 
metamorphosed into pi'odigies — prodigies namely, of conceit, 
shallowness, arrogance and infidelity. Children must be 
taught to reason — and at an age when we were digging out 
and chewing the bitter rudiments of learning, they are gra- 
duating in philosophy, dialectics, and metaphysics. Hence 
we have so many easy methods, and dilutions, and simplifi- 
ers, and illustrations, for the benefit of these baby reasoners 
and juvenile graduates — a sort of mental aliment of pap 
and panada, for infant intellects. Thus we have the " Child's 
book of Philosophy"—" Child's book of Astronomy"— " Child's 


book of the mind" — that is to say of Metaphysics — even the 
" Child's book of Theology" — and most insufferable of all, 
" Evidences of Christianity, for children" — as if the child of 
a christian ought not to be expected to believe Christianity, 
of course, and as if that Divine Religion must be put upon 
its proof, as a suspected thing, at the bar of a child's judg- 
ment ! The v^hole of this system is unnatural and absurd. 
A child cannot reason. The human mind does not at first 
abstract, and generalize, and reason ; but perceives, observes 
and remembers. Memory is the faculty first exhibited. Na- 
ture, therefore, teaches that that should be first cultivated and 
trained. To attempt to teach a child to reason and argue, 
is to attempt to teach it to stand before it can sit ; or to walk 
backwards before it learns to walk fgrwards. The conse- 
quence is, those thus taught generally go in the wrong direc- 
tion all their lives. But instead of storing the memory with 
facts, and rules, and principles, while that is the leading fa- 
culty, for the after exercise of the judgment and understand- 
ing, these nurslings of improved pedagogy are taiight to dis- 
pute and decide ; to suspect all men's wisdom but their own ; 
and to hold nothing sacred from their contempt but their own 
impertinence and presumption. There are many things which 
mav be well learned, and must be learned, before the reasons 
of them are, or can be understood. Why labor, for example^ 
with little pictures and balls, and figures to teach a child five 
years old, the reasons irJii/ 3 times 4 are 12 ? Reasons wholly 
useless for the present, and which will be easily and naturally 
discovered afterwards. 

The principle that a child is to be taught only what he un- 
derstands and can see the reasons of — is dangerous. It sub- 
verts the very foundation of human knowledge. It cuts us 
loose from our moorings, and sends us adrift on the ocean 
of scepticism, without chart, compass, or rudder. It is ut- 
terly inconsistent with our condition in this world of myste- 
ries, where the oldest know but in part, and see through a 
glass, darkly. For what is there in the wide Universe any 
man can say he thoroughly comprehends and understands in 
its ultimate grounds and reasons, in its inmost nature, and 
in its nearest and remotest relations ? The slenderest blade of 


grass — the minutest pebble under his feet, shall baffle his 
pride and arrogance. He cannot tell what makes the one to 
grow, or what holds the particles of the other together. Ask 
him about the latter, and perhaps he will babble to you of 
" cohesive attraction." Bid him translate his learned jargon 
into plain English, and behold, it means " they stick together, 
because they stick to one another !" 

Man cannot penetrate one step into the secrets of nature, 
before he is involved in inextricable mystery. The highest 
human philosophy only traces a few facts here and there, in 
the great world of things to be known, and then confesses 
itself powerless as the merest and weakest ignorance. True 
science does not pretend to understand and explain. It is 
humble. Its last and highest lesson, is the inherent and es- 
sential weakness of the human mind. Ignorance and stu- 
pidity, are proud, and self-confident, and vain glorious — speak- 
ing great, swelling words of vanity — desiring to be teach- 
ers, but understanding neither what they say, nor whereof 
they affirm. 

The notion that a child must be taught, and required to 
believe, only what he can understand and see the reasons of, 
is contrary to nature, and to the principles our Maker has 
inwrought into the very elements of our mental constitu- 
tion. The very first impulse of the infant mind, and there- 
fore, evidently the voice of nature and of God, is faith — con- 
fidence in authority — reliance upon the opinion of his supe- 
riors. The unperverted child believes spontaneously, by 
natural instinct, on the authority of his betters. And it is 
only after experience has taught him the falsehood and igno- 
rance of others, that he learns to distrust and doubt. These 
new lights would therefore engraft the vile and pestilent 
shoots of depraved and lying humanity, on the incorrupt 
and healthy stem of nature's root — do violence to the inborn 
instincts of man, and contradict the suggestions of the Al- 
mighty. Children would never dream of demanding reasons 
before they can understand reasons, if the besotted ignorance 
and empty conceit of would-be reformers did not tempt and 
invite them. The philosophy and reason of things are a 
study and a task for men, but these innovators would make 
them a sport for babies. 


The radical and reforming spirit of the age has invaded 
the domain of education, in another respect, with the most 
deleterious and dangerous designs. I mean in the matter of 
the government and discipline of the young. The stern and 
rigorous rule held by our fathers over their children, has 
been every where cried out against as cruel and barbarous. 
Rod and rattan are expelled from the parental roof and the 
teacher's desk, and as a substitute the honied sweetness of 
coaxing, and not seldom, the low cunning of artful manoeu- 
vre, are adopted to cheat the child into the performance of his 
duty. Some go so far as to affirm the false and pestiferous 
principle, that he should never be compelled to obedience — 
that the reasons of a command should be explained to him, 
and his compliance left then to himself. He must sit in judg- 
ment on their propriety, and decide how far they are entitled 
to his respect. Of course he naturally infers that where he 
cannot see and feel their force, which is commonly the case, 
there 'rests upon him no obligation to obey — When the at- 
tempt is made to lead him along by the gentle arts of per- 
suasion, he immediately perceives that what he is only per- 
suaded to do, he may let alone if he chooses. It is his liberty 
and right to resist persuasion. Here is a main source of the 
evils which afflict our schools and our country. Children 
thus brought up, learn from the cradle to despise authority — 
to cast oft' the restraints of law and government — to resist 
the control of legitimate power, and to obey only their own 
passions. They form a habit of insubordination, self-will, 
and rebellion. Hence our youth are wild, and ungovernable, 
and lawless — our schools disorderly and idle — domestic go- 
vernment, a thing that was — and every community cursed 
with men who trample the laws of their country under their 
feet, and despise all restraint upon their conduct. Men un- 
used to obedience and government in youth, are fretted and 
galled by them in manhood. Untaught submission at home, 
they refuse it at school. Not brought into due subjection there, 
they go forth into the world ready, on the first impulse of 
passion or interest, to violate the laws of the land. Hence 
the administration of justice has become so loose and un- 
certain. Juries screen the criminal and Courts connive at it. 


And hence, too, riots, and lynching, and outrage, come so 
frequently to pass. And oar boasted freedom, in many places, 
has degenerated into a Mdld and reckless lawlessness, which 
only the bad love, but all the good fear and hate, worse than 
despotism. It would be preposterous to expect any other 
result. An ungovcrned child can never make any thing but 
a lawless man ; and a school without strict discipline and 
efficient government, is only a nursery of rebels and out- 

In the hands of a discreet and competent teacher, there 
will indeed seldom be necessity for resort to that ancient in- 
strument of juvenile discipline, tlie rod ; and some children 
can be well governed altogether without it. But it should 
always be kept as a last resort — and known to be such — a 
reserved power — a latent engine — to be called forth prompt- 
ly, decidedly, feelingly, at the proper time. The vast majo- 
rity of children must at times be ruled by compulsion — by 
force. And their present and eternal happiness requires 
them to learn to obey, to submit, to respect authority and 
government. A child must be governed as a child — and un- 
til he can appreciate other motives, and prove it by his con- 
duct, he must be compelled, or ruined. Be well assured, ye 
theoretical gentlemen who have never wielded the ruler, nor 
flourished the birch, and yet assume to know exactly how to 
manage the boy — he is not that easy, pliant, non-resisting 
thing you suppose, to be moulded, and formed, and guided by 
the gentle breath of persuasive words. He is rather like a 
mass of rough and stubborn iron in the grasp of the work- 
man's tongs. He requires many a heat in the furnace, and 
many a turn and twist, and many a hard blow from a strong 
and skilful hand, before he can be fashioned as we will. 

Some silly parents have said, " we had rather our child 
should die than be whipped !" And the insane wish is often 
gratified in a murderous affray, or by the public executioner. 
Those who on slight provocations plant bloody knives in 
each other's bosoms, or shoot down their friends in the streets, 
are not those who were properly disciplined at school. He 
that banishes the rod, supplies the prison with its inmates, 
and the hangman with his victims. 


But it would be an endless task to enumerate the follies and 
mischiefs which are perpetrated in the matter of education. 
The greater part of them come from the employment of in- 
competent persons in the teacher's office. These yield to the 
mistaken desires, or impose on the credulous confidence of 
parents or employers. Medicine has its quacks — law, its 
pettifoggers — divinity its fanatics — and it would be strange 
if education had not its pedagogues. But the source of the 
evil lies deeper. In a truly enlightened and liberal commu- 
nity, quackery could not flourish in any profession. When 
the people estimate too low the value of a good education, 
or are too miserly to pay its just price, they will get that 
which is mean and bad, and get it cheap. The maxim is of 
universal application, " poor pay, poor preach !" Teachers 
can be got for fifty dollars, but they will be fifty dollar teach- 
ers. The cupidity and ignorance which demand cheap ed- 
ucation, are the curse of the profession and of the children. 
They crowd our schools with masters utterly incompetent for 
their calling. And if circumstances compel a gentleman of 
proper qualifications to teach, he does so (with a few noble 
exceptions,) only as a temporary resource, and leaves it as 
soon as possible, for something else. Hence the great ma- 
jority of teachers are young men, just out of College, with- 
out experience, and without interest, zeal, or ambition in the 
art, who use it only as a stepping stone to some other pro- 
fession. The public have no right to complain. They called 
for cheap education, and it came. They have their choice in 
this as in every other business, either a high price and good 
work, or a low price and bad work. 

It is preposterous to say that the present rates of a teach- 
er's remuneration are high enough. If we except one, no 
other profession which requires the same amount of prepa- 
ration, talent, character, experience, labor and responsibility, 
and which is charged with interests so precious and impor- 
tant, is so meanly rewarded. And it is equally absurd to 
pretend that the people are not able to pay higher prices. 
Many who complain of them, and desire to have them yet 
cheaper, pay generously for other things, even luxuries. 


They squander often on their children's dresses and amuse- 
ments, more than enough to adorn their minds with the best 
learning and the most manly virtues. Hundreds of people 
find money enough for trade, houses, land, furniture, equip- 
age, dress, fashion and superfluities, who, at the bare men- 
tion of a tuition fee, begin to whine about hard times. An 
avaricious desire to increase their property, is the reason 
often of this niggardly treatment of the teacher. But they 
forget, or will not understand, that the best property is that 
education which is so undervalued. The most precious in- 
heritance is that enlightened, cultivated and accomplished 
mind, which the foolish parent denies his child. And the 
man who can educate his children well, but is unwilling to 
pay the price, is as contemptibje as he is cruel, and deserves 
the scorn of the world, .when he dares to insult a competent 
and faithful teacher, " by asking him, in a sneaking tone, to 
take less P' Let us hear no more of poor schools and poor 
teachers. The public can haye good schools whenever and 
wherever it chooses to pay for them. Poor wages beget 
poor teachers, and poor teachers cannot make good schools. 
In one particular, the signs of the times are full of promise 
as to our schools. The notion which prevailed a few years 
ago, that all religion and all Christian instruction ought to 
be banished from the school-room, is giving way before the 
progress of better wisdom. The idea, indeed, that a Chris- 
tian people should have atheistic schools is simply absurd, 
preposterous and intolerable. If we had no sense to reason 
against it, the instincts of nature would repel it. No man 
who duly estimates the value of religious and moral princi- 
ples, the incalculable influences which the associations of the 
school exert upon the character, and the difficulty of training 
up the young in the paths of piety and virtue, with all the 
helps and appliances we can command, can doubt for a mo- 
ment the imperative duty of converting the school into an 
instrument of moral and religious power. The case is too 
plain for argument. The difficulty has arisen heretofore, 
partly from the employment of worthless men as teachers, 
because they could be had cheap ; partly from a cowardly 

' 23 

yielding of Christian parents to loud-mouthed infidelity ; but 
chiefly from the sectarian divisions of Christians, and their 
abominable denominational jealousies. Professed Christians 
have preferred to have their children at school under no reli- 
gious influence, rather than under that of a rival sect. As 
if any of our current creeds were not better than none ; and 
as if no Christian teacher could be found honest enough to 
teach his pupils that Christianity which is common to us all, 
without also teaching them his own sectarianism. Alas, for 
poor human nature ! The only remedy seems to be denomi- 
national schools. Under present circumstances, the choice 
lies between them and atheistic, godless schools, and we can- 
not long debate which of these two to choose. Any form of 
sectarianism, however bigoted and exclusive and full of sel- 
fish zeal, is infinitely better in a school than no religion. 

It is not my opinion that the attempt should be made in a 
school to teach the doctrines of religion, by special, direct 
and express instruction. To some extent, this undoubtedly 
should be done. But it cannot be carried very far, without 
interfering with the peculiar duties of the school. For the 
formal instruction of children in religion, our chief depend- 
ence must be on the family and the church. And there may 
be danger at this time, lest this may be forgotten. Religion 
should be in the school, not so much in lessons and text- 
books, but rather as the air and atmosphere of the place, 
breathed and felt by all. It should be wrought into the 
^vhole texture and routine of duty and discipline. Without 
being the business of the school, it belongs to all the busi- 
ness. It should mingle with the studies, the rebukes, the 
chastisements, the rewards, the counsels, the approbation. 
It should live and breathe in every look, tone, word, and 
movement of the teacher ; and, by the magnetic power of 
sympathy, pervade every bosom there. The pupils should 
see and feel how it is possible to carry into every thing the 
sweet spirit of a cheerful piety, in every thing to regard the 
authority of God, and for all to be employed in His service. 
Besides this, religion should have its altar there, and prayer 
and thanksgiving be offered up morning and evening. The 


authority of God should be publicly appealed to in instruc- 
tion and discipline, His will recognized and declared, His pro- 
vidence acknowledged and His mercy implored. In every 
lesson of every study, a Christian teacher will find oppor- 
tunity to instil Christian truth and principles, and so to imbue 
all the exercises of the school with the living spirit of Chris- 
tianity, that the place will be like the house of God, and he 
himself like a priest of the Most High. He can often make 
lessons as solemn as sermons, and cause the heart and con- 
science of his pupil to tremble and grow tender under the 
power of religious truth, seen, felt and fixed forever. 

The all-important thing, is for the teacher himself to be 
baptised in his own soul with the spirit of deep, tender, 
ardent piety ; to have his heart full of God to overflowing ; 
to realize his responsibilities for the young immortals brought 
under his influence ; to feel the infinite importance of their 
religious welfare ; and to keep ever in view, that coming 
hour when he and they shall confront each other before the 
bar of an awful God. Reckless men rush into the school- 
room, and dare to deal with the principles and powers of 
immortal souls, as they would toss a foot-ball, or cut and 
hammer a block of wood. The madmen think not that for 
every one, they must answer before that Judge, from whom 
there is no concealment and no escape, and who counts each 
of them of more worth than a thousand worlds. 

When we think of it, it seems amazing that Christian men 
can entrust the education of their children to irreligious and 
prayerless teachers. It is a nevv^ idolatry of Moloch. They 
offer up their offspring to the power of the great destroyer, 
and tempt him to make them his prey. The infatuation 
which led to the exclusion of religion from our schools, and 
forbade even the minister of the Gospel, when teaching, to 
open his lips on the subject, and carefully expurgated every 
trace of the Gospel from school-books, on a pretended fear of 
sectarianism, is the most incredible and disgraceful phenome- 
non ever presented by a Christian people. The worst form 
of our religion is infinitely preferable to atheism, deism, or in- 
fidelity. And any Christian man w^ho would not choose a 


teacher for his children from the denomination most opposed 
to his own, rather than commit them to one who has no reli- 
gion, can only be considered as cemented in his bigotry. 
Sectarianism might save the children in a different form of 
faith and worship from the father. Infidelity would not save 
them at all. Sectarianism may be error and bigotry. Infi- 
delity is heresy and ruin. Any form of our common Chris- 
tianity has some elements of truth, piety and salvation, and 
leaves the hope of eternal life. Infidelity has no vital prin- 
ciple. Its breath is pestilence — its life, death — its influence, 
deep damnation. ,